Saturday, August 01, 2009

Publishing House Mergers Are Ruining the Industry


Lately Paul and I are beginning to feel like rabid conspiracy theorists although there's nothing "theoretical" about what we're seeing in business all around us. I've been busy trying to find a publisher and/or literary agent to get my latest books published and what I've discovered has shocked me.

I used to work in the publishing industry. I was a book designer and, for a while, the acting art director at Crossing Press. They were a small to mid-sized publishing company started by a husband and wife on their kitchen table. They specialized in alternative health and healing, metaphysical spirituality, feminist and gay and lesbian literature, and cookbooks. Cookbooks were their "bread and butter". They published some really great ones that made it possible to publish whatever they cared about without worrying about whether any single title paid the rent.

It was great to work there! We really cared about the books we did and it was working there that launched my career as a spiritual counselor and healer. That's where I was introduced to most of what I now like to do. I read every book I worked on and had access to every book on the warehouse shelves.

Elaine and John Gill, the publishers of Crossing Press, lived less than a block away from where Paul and I lived in Santa Cruz. A few years after John died Elaine retired and the press was sold to Ten Speed Press in Berkeley, CA. That was about 5-6 years ago. Yesterday I looked them up. The books I have to offer right now are exactly the kind of thing John and Elaine liked to do. I don't think there's anyone I know there anymore but I thought, because of the past association, that it was worth taking a look.

The press barely exists! They still promote their backlist and seem to have at least 1-2 new titles on their Fall list but that's a far cry from the number of books we used to do! And that goes for Ten Speed, too!

Ten Speed, Celestial Arts and Crossing comprised a small publishing group just a few years ago. Then they were bought by the Crown Publishing Group and just this year Crown was purchased by Random House. Then I looked a little further and found out that Random House isn't as far as it goes. They are now a division of an even larger entity called the Bertelsmann Group.

Bertelsmann started as a small conservative Bible publishing company in Germany in the 19th century and have grown to be the 2nd or 3rd largest media conglomerate in the world. One might wonder how they got so large. Well, one determining factor is that they became THE publishing company for the Third Reich when Hitler was in power. Jewish slave labor was used in at least one or two of their printing presses. Elaine Gill was Jewish. John, later in his life, came out as gay. I don't know if Elaine is still alive or how well she is if she's still kicking. I do know that the two of them would be sick if they knew what has become of their publishing baby today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are only really six publishing companies in America, and only one of them is American.

http://fictioncircus.com/news.php?id=402&mode=one

Two out of the six companies have direct ties to the Nazi party, and one of the six is Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Sleep tight!